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Monday, January 17, 2011

Mama Prospero's Meatballs and Marinara

What a perfect recipe for a cold, rainy evening! I'd been wanting to make this since I saw it in the Charlotte Observer before the holidays because (a) I LOVE spaghetti and meatballs and had never made it and (b) this version uses the microwave?! Intriguing.

This recipe was part of a feature about cooking food that you can freeze and give as a gift for the holidays, a concept I heartily endorse. Mama Prospero, I don't know who you are, but bless you and your meatballs!

1 large onion, peeled and cut in chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in chunks
1 giant handful of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano)
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of dried red pepper flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can tomato puree (This is apparently not the same thing as tomato sauce? Hmm. Suspect they are the same, but I followed instructions, although puree came only in a 28-ounce can.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup red wine

Pulse onion and garlic in food processor until finely chopped. Heat oil in large Dutch oven, then saute onion, garlic and red pepper flakes until softened, about 5 minutes.
While you are doing that, pulse herbs until finely chopped.
Add herbs to onion and garlic, stir and cook about 5 minutes. Remove 1/3 cup of mixture from pan and reserve for meatballs.
Pulse whole tomatoes in food processor until finely chopped. (I must say, one thing I like about this recipe is that you use your food processor multiple times.)
Add to pan along with tomato puree. Add salt, pepper, sugar and wine. Simmer on low heat while you make the meatballs.
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
3 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine egg, milk and bread crumbs in a large bowl and stir until liquids are absorbed. Add reserved 1/3 cup onion-herb mixture and stir.
Add ground beef, salt and pepper and mix gently until well blended.
Using a tablespoon and your hands, form meatballs about the size of ping pong balls. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place as many meatballs as will fit in a single layer in dish.
Microwave on high for 8 minutes. Remove meatballs with slotted spoon and add to sauce. Pour off juices given off by meatballs in cooking, and repeat with remaining meatballs. (I must confess, I at first thought this meant to pour off the juices into the sauce, but since it called for a slotted spoon, I realized that meant to discard the microwaved meat juices -- those tomato cans came in handy for this part!)
Some of the meatballs in the center were still too pink for me, so I removed the ones from the edges and microwaved the center ones for a few more minutes.
(I also used two 9x13 pans to microwave the meatballs so I could pat out the second batch while the first batch was cooking.) 
Simmer meatballs and sauce together about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove from heat, cool and then package for freezer. Or, cook spaghetti and enjoy if you are making this for yourself!

Yield: about 42 meatballs, and lots of sauce, or 5 (2 1/2 cup) containers for freezing.

I had fun making this and thought it was pretty easy for what it is. I'm excited to freeze some of this for an easy weeknight dinner when I need something yummy!


Rachel C. said...

This makes me hungry. Love the idea of freezing and might I add - spaghetti and meatballs are so underrated. Yum!

Mandy said...

I plan to make this on Sunday now. Thanks for the great idea! (And I'm excited about using the Ninja Chopper I got for Christmas.)

Hilary P said...

I think my Italian husband might boot me out of the kitchen if he knew I was making meatballs in the MICROWAVE - but I am willing to give it a try! BTW, the pork chops were a BIG hit